The Numbers of the Boast

The numbers of the boast - or perhaps, The Cokern Wakes…

The story so far: handsome insurance clerk, Mike Wilkinson, 40, was training to ride in the Red Bull 24 hour race on his Coker when suddenly, he was caught up in a freak localised gravitational anomaly and pulled screaming from his Coker, injuring his hand. Bitterly disappointed, he had to withdraw from the race. Confined to an armchair for 2 days, he began his lone and heroic battle against tragedy, strengthening his hand with exercises, practising his fencing moves really slowly, and riding a much much smaller unicycle very very carefully. At last the day had come when he felt able to remount his proud steed and become, once again, The Hammer King… Now read on…

I had the day off work for a funeral, which finished mid afternoon. The weather was good, and I could hear the call of the riverbank… Pausing only to throw my Coker in the car, find my wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, cycling shorts, leggings, a clean T shirt, my Camelbak, my stop watch, my computer, my sunglasses, suncream and my toolkit, I set off.

The plan was to do a gentle ride to get my confidence back. I took the stopwatch anyway, with a vague idea of seeing if I could do 12 miles in an hour (my PB is 12.95, but this was before 2 weeks of flu and 3 weeks (approx.) without serious riding because of my hand). A little nervous, I set myself up systematically: Camelbak, knee pads, elbow pads, wristguards, stopwatch, sunglasses… then took the elbow pads off because they’re just too restricting… I checked that the trip computer was working… started the stop watch… and fluffed my first attempt to mount! The second attempt was successful, if wobbly.

Ah! This was the real thing… astride the big wheel, lord of all I surveyed, the ground speeding past… the wind in my hair, bugs in my teeth… er… the wind in my hair? Doh! My helmet was still in the car! Try to do a neat 180 on the spot… too many kids shouting jocular encouragement… drop it. Fluff my attempt at mounting… get on 2nd time… seat feels too high. I ride back to the car, fetch my helmet, lower the seat a little (I must have reset it wrong after my accident) and then I set the stopwatch again, reset the computer to zero, and I’m off… or I’m on… freemount is perfect, and I am on my way.

I followed my usual route, down by the river, out past the sailing club along the narrow winding single track and over the nasty steep little hillikin, onto the road, and into the National Watersports Centre… then it was head down and pedal, lap after lap of the 2500 metre rowing lake. That’s probably a 5.5 - 6 kilometre lap, but on level smooth tarmac. Level and smooth, unless you count the gaggles of geese sprawled in the dying rays of the afternoon sunshine.

About 7 miles (11.3 km) into the ride, I check my stop watch. It’s a fantastic device, which tells me the day, date, time, split time… and it can be operated by a child of five. Lacking a child of five, I had operated it myself, and pushed the wrong button at the start of the ride. I could be on for a Personal Best here: I’ve done around 7 miles in 0:00.00 infinite average speed… Hmmmmm. At least the pressure’s off for a fast ride, so what now? A vague plan forms to ride 15 miles (24 km) without dismounting. My previous furthest is 12.95, with a deliberate dismount.

So I whizz round the lake, perhaps a little slower than before, sipping at the water in Camelbak, admiring the lady joggers in their Lycra, and, i flatter myself, being admired in return, although I doubt it. I’m weaving between the geese and the goose droppings, and thinking all’s well with the world.

The Viscount seat begins to make its presence known; I start to fidget. I’ve been riding with two hands on the handle, and I notice that my left wrist guard has abraded the skin from my right thumb… ouch!

All’s well in the world until I meet with a group of school boy kayakers, splashing about near the shore, and shouting comments which verge on the abusive. One starts singing the circus song (Entry of the Gladiators, Fucek) and I consider responding that I can paddle a kayak better than him, and sing better than him, and do both better than he’ll ever ride a unicycle, but I decide against it. Likewise I don’t respond to the single word abuse (rhymes with ‘hat’) from a rower.

Eventually, knowing the landmarks reasonably well, I pass the 13 mile point, and I’m in new territory - over 13 miles without a dismount, and my feet are tingling with the pressure on the pedals (anyone else get this?) and I have a painful posterior. So it’s time to strike off cross country for a bit… will the hand be up to it? Will my nerve be up to it? Yes and yes. I make the short but steep climb across the mown grass that I do most weeks but never take for granted, then drop down across the ridged sand and ballast of a half-made path, and up onto the grass bank.

I duck under the metal sculpture (arrows and oars: Robin Hood and rowing), swoop up onto the grass dome (just to touch the green green grassy dome) where I once weathercocked the Coker in a Force 8, then down, up across, and down the steep descent I do most weeks, but never take for granted. If I lose it on this hill, there will be a BIG splash!

This short foray convinces me my hand is reasonably OK - at least with the support of the plastic palm splint in the wrist guard. Also, it’s taken the pressure off my backside for a bit, and I’m now OK to ride around the lake a bit more.

So I carry on along the tarmac for a while, then up onto the grassy bank which puts me against the skyline, looks impressive, but is dead easy to ride (my sort of MUni!) then back down onto the tarmac. A rowing coach in a 4 wheel drive passes in the opposite direction at well over the 10mph speed limit. He doesn’t give me any room for error - this can only be a carefully thought out and subtle compliment to my riding ability, because the only other explanation is that he’s a (one word, sounds like ‘hat’).

And as I reach the end of the lake, I see my nemesis stretching before me: the easy grassy slope which I did take for granted, and which threw me to my doom, ruining a promising piano career before my first lesson was booked… and I ride up it in one, killing a demon on the way. I drop down to the waterski hut, down a short but nastily steep hill, and smile at all and sundry because I can’t honestly remember which one gave me the ice pack when I hurt my hand. I get a UNIQUE question: “How far have you come?” I reply, “About 15 miles so far,” and the reply is, “Cool!” I feel like I’m getting respect as an athlete, and it feels good.

Back over the hill to the big lake, then I retrace some of the early part of my route, only to find it densely populated with bicyclists and dog walkers. Fair enough - it is part of the Trent Valley Way long distance path, after all. A family of Sikh children make excited and positive comments, and their father smiles. I notice that I always get a friendly response from Asian families, whether Sikh, Moslem, or Hindu. Strange but true. We could learn a lot about respect for others because it doesn’t feature prominently in white English culture - certainly not among the children, anyway.

By now, my legs are tired, my feet are tingling from pressure on the pedals, and the tops of my feet are hurting because my trainers are too tight. 18+ miles without a UPD and I’m not going to stop now, but I can feel my feet swelling. My knee guards are also too tight behind my hamstrings. I have a fair idea of the distance involved, and estimate that going straight to the car will put me on 19.5 miles… and that would never do. So I put in a short extra loop, riding down almost as far as the City Ground (home of Nottingham Forest Football Club) turn without a UPD, and return to the car, arriving with my feet on the verge of agony.

I arrive to what I could choose to interpret as a hero’s welcome, although cycnicism and experience tell me the cheers from the children on the half pipe are ironic. I dismount gracefully from the rear. I’ve just made it over the bar: 20.04 miles! And I’ve just made it under the bar: 1 hour 53.45 seconds.

So the Numbers of the Boast:
Coker, 36 inch wheel, 150mm (6 inch) cranks.
20.04 miles in 1 hour 53.45 minutes.
(32.24 kilometres)
Top speed 14mph (22.5 kmh)
That’s an average of 10.57 mph, or 17kmh, most of which was on fairly easy terrain, but with a few tricky climbs and descents.
And no dismounts, planned or otherwise. A Personal Best, of sorts, and my confidence restored.

Wow, great story, and great ride! No boast. I think the farthest I’ve ever gone nonstop was 9 miles. That’s the farthest I ever raced, and I think I stayed on the second time we did that race (Chariton, 1996).

You listened as your body told you how it’s usually better to stop every once in a while (!), but stuck it through. I’m sure only a handful of the other Coker riders out there have come close to, if any have exceeded, your mark.

Re: The Numbers of the Boast

Excellent Mike!

Well Done! A pleasure to read!

Could also be called “The Numbness of the Boast”. Yes?

Enjoyed the read Mike, Great job and Congratulations. --chirokid–

Re: The Numbers of the Boast

Mikefule wrote:
> The numbers of the boast - or perhaps, The Cokern Wakes…
> The story so far: handsome insurance clerk…

Handsome too?! Now I really hate you. :wink:

Great ride and great post, Mike; good man!

Ahhhhh the pleasure of one of Mike’s posts. I half-expected Water Rat to show up in the middle and start discoursing on the differences between Cokering and boating.


Thanks again for going to the trouble of writing a gorgeous piece of prose and entertaining us all. And congratulations for your tandem victory; two difficult accomplishments in one enchantingly documented ride.

I need another hint for the British slang that rhymes with hat.

Cool Mike, you write like you ride! excellent


shat,that was a great piece.

all that on a Viscount too,do you still hurt?

He could have been suggesting I was a Totally Wonderful All Terrain unicyclist, but I doubt it. He could have been mistakenly telling a friend, “That Was A Tandem,” but I doubt that too. Over here, it’s a very rude word indeed.

Jagur: perhaps it’s a personal choice thing, but I find the Viscount reasonably comfortable, and loads better than the Velo that I have on my 28.

This morning, there’s a small bit of chafing in a place which I won’t describe in detail; my thumb is sore where the other wristguard rubbed the skin off when I was holding the handle with both hands; my left knee is slightly sore; and my injured hand is slightly stiff, but not hurting.


u know it’s gonna be a good day when u log on and there’s a new ‘mikefule’ post with a catchy title…

thanx mike

Over here, that rhymes with “hot”…

Tomaytoe, Tomahtoe, Potaytoe, Potahtoe: Let’s call the whole thing off…

Thanks for all of the hints. I should have just said, “pictures, please,” as usual.

Re: The Numbers of the Boast

I feel the clean T-shirt was a bit excessive, considering the imenant arrival of Cokerman! (who would surely be clad head to toe in spandex)… (or would that be Mr. Toad?)